Unity Dow

Unity Dow (born 23 April 1959)[1] is a Motswana judge, human rights activist and writer currently serving as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation . She came from a rural background that tended toward traditional values. She successfully challenged the law that argued that citizenship was inherited by children from the fathers and not from their mothers. She also went to court to argue that a gay rights group was legal and not unconstitutional in the law of Botswana.

Dr Unity Dow
Unity Dow - PopTech 2011 - Camden Maine USA (cropped).jpg
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
In office
2 November 2019 – 26 August 2020
PresidentMokgweetsi Masisi
Preceded byVincent T. Seretse
Succeeded byLemogang Kwape
Specially Elected Member of Parliament
Assumed office
2 November 2019
Appointed byMokgweetsi Masisi
Personal details
Born (1959-04-23) 23 April 1959 (age 61)
Political partyBDP
Spouse(s)Dr Karl J. Stahl
ResidenceMochudi, South East Botswana
Alma materUBS (LL.B)


Dow studied law at the University of Botswana and Swaziland (LLB 1983), which included two years spent studying at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.[2] Her Western education caused a mixture of respect and suspicion.[3]

In 1991, Unity Dow co-founded the private Baobab Primary School in Gaborone and she co-founded the first AIDS-specific NGO in the country, "AIDS ACTION TRUST."[4]

Dow earned her acclaim as a lawyer particularly through her stances on women's rights. She was the plaintiff in a case that allowed the children of women with Botswana citizenship by foreign national fathers to be considered citizens of Batswana (Attorney General of Botswana v Unity Dow (1992). Before this case, according to tradition and prior precedent, nationality only descended from the father. She later became Botswana's first female High Court judge.[5] She was also co-founder of the first all-female law practice Dow, Malakaila, and was one of the founding members of the women's organization Emang Basadi.[1]

As a novelist, Dow has published five books. These books often deal with issues concerning the struggle between Western and traditional values. They also involve her interest in gender issues and her nation's poverty.[4] Dow contributed to the book Schicksal Afrika (Destiny Africa) by the former German President Horst Koehler in 2009. In May 2010 she published her book, Saturday is for Funerals, which describes the AIDS problem in Africa.

In 2005, Unity Dow became a member of a UN mission to Sierra Leone to review the domestic application of international women's human rights. On 13 December 2006, she was one of three judges who ruled on the acclaimed Kgalagadi (San, Bushmen or Basarwa) court decision, concerning the rights of the San to return to their ancestral lands.[4]

Unity Dow has been a Member of a special mission at the invitation of the Rwandan Government and UN special court for Rwanda since 2007. The purpose of this mission is to review the Rwandan Judiciaries preparedness to take over the hearing of the 1994 genocide cases.

Dow was a visiting professor of Law at the School of Law, Columbia University, New York, during the fall semester 2009,[4] and further at Washington and Lee, Lexington, USA, 2009, and University of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, 2009.

After retiring from the High Court Botswana in 2009, after 11 years of service, she opened the legal firm "Dow & Associates" in Botswana in February 2010. Dow was also sworn in as Justice of the IICDRC (Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court) of Kenya by the Kenyan President to serve implementing the new constitution in Kenya.

On 14 July 2010 Dow was awarded the French Medal of the Légion d'honneur de France by representatives of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy for her human rights activities.

At the Women of the World Summit in March 2011 and 2012 in New York, Unity Dow was mentioned as one of 150 women who shake the world.[6]

Unity Dow served as Commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists. She was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2009. In 2006 she was also elected to the Executive Committee and subsequently re-elected in 2008. In March 2011 she was elected the Chairperson of the Executive Committee, succeeding Dr. Rajeev Dhavan, India, effective from June 2011 to June 2012.

Unity Dow is the only motswana listed under the world recognised feminists for her advocation in women rights from the period of 1940 to present.

On 6 July 2012 Dow was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council as one of three independent experts to conduct a fact-finding mission on how Israel's West Bank settlements affect Palestinians. A preliminary version of the report[7] was published on 31 January 2013.

In 2013, Dow decided to enter politics. On 28 October 2014. Dow was nominated by former President Ian Khama of Botswana as "special elected member of parliament" and confirmed by the new 11th Parliament of Botswana. Dow was also appointed Assistant Minister of Education in the Government of Botswana, responsible for Higher / Tertiary Education and Skills Development.

On 14 November 2014, Dow was successful in representing LEGABIBO, the Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals of Botswana in a trial versus the State of Botswana to register LEGABIBO as an organization in Botswana. Previously the State has refused the registration on arguments it would be unconstitutional. On 1 March 2015 former President Khama appointed her as Minister of Education and Skills Development in the Government of Botswana.

Minister Unity Dow and Macsuzy Mondon signed a Memo of Understanding in 2015

After the inauguration of the fifth President of Botswana Mokgweetsi E. Masisi on 1 April 2018, Unity Dow took over as Minister of Infrastructure and Housing Development in the Government of Botswana. On 20 June 2018, in a cabinet reshuffle, she was named Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation. After re-election of Dr. Mokgweetsi E. Masisi 1 November 2019 as President of Botswana, Dr Unity Dow was reconfirmed as Minister of International Affairs and Cooperation by the 12th parliament of Botswana.

Honours and awardsEdit

Selected awards and honours Dow has received include the Prominent Woman in International Law Award: 26 March 2009 in Washington DC; University of Edinburgh: Doctor of Laws: Honorary Degree awarded 30 July 2009.[8]



Honorary degreesEdit


  • Far and Beyon', Longman Botswana, 2000, Spinifex, 2001
  • The Screaming of the Innocent, Spinifex 2002, Double Storey, 2003
  • Juggling Truths, Spinifex, 2003
  • The Heavens May Fall, Double Storey, 2006
  • Saturday is for Funerals, Harvard Press, 2010

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Akyeampong, Emmanuel Kwaku; Gates, Henry Louis (1 January 2012). Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. ISBN 9780195382075.
  2. ^ "Honorary Degree - Justice Unity Dow". Celebrating 100 Years of Women in Law: An Edinburgh Centenary. Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh, School of Law. Archived from the original on 22 June 2010. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  3. ^ "Radio 4 Woman's Hour -Unity Dow". BBC. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d "Unity Dow: Lawyer, Judge, Human-Rights Activist, and Now Columbia Law School Professor". Columbia Law School. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Unity Dow". freddevries.co.za. Archived from the original on 19 September 2010. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  6. ^ "150 women who shake the world". www.thedailybeast.com. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  7. ^ "FFMSettlements" (PDF). www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  8. ^ hutr. "2009 UniSA Nelson Mandela Lecture". www.unisa.edu.au. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d e "Through Their Eyes: Of Diamond Rings and Cows - Diamonds for Love and Cows are for?". University of South Australia. Retrieved 15 November 2014.

External linksEdit